Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This Just In: An Annoying "Out of Office" Auto-Reply!

(Hitting the rode.)

Of all the fears I harbor (and there are many), three of them loom greater and more forbiddingly than all the rest, and they are (in ascending order of menace):

3) Having to use an unfamiliar bathroom;

2) Having to express a cat's anal glands;

And of course the big one,

1) Having to take temporary leave of this blog.

Alas, it is with a heavy heart that I announce I must do numbers three (3) and one (1), for I have traveling to do, and these travels mean that not only will I have to use unfamiliar bathrooms (unless I can "hold it in" for a really long time), but I will also be unable to place words into this blog (at least not ones worth reading, inasmuch as any of this is worth reading, which is debatable, but believe it or not I do have standards).

All of this is a very roundabout way of saying that I'm about to board a plane and that I will be away from this blog until Thursday, March 3rd, at which point I will return with regular updates. Yes, there is much to look forward to in March, as you can see from looking at this calendar:

As for the nature of my travels, the first portion of the trip will actually consist of testing bicycles with the editorial staff of Bicycling magazine, during which I will finally get to see how they decide that one crabon bicycle is more laterally still and vertically compliant than another. This is very poignant for me, since it's been almost four years since I wrote this post, and I'm dying to find out if Bicycling's testing process is as unintentionally funny as the reviews it yields. Sadly though I'll probably never find out, since judging by my recent training numbers I expect to get dropped immediately and never see the editorial staff of Bicycling ever again:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

As for the second portion of the trip, that goes beyond the purview of this blog, but let's just say I'm finally going into the studio to record that country and Western album I've been talking about.

In any case, like a good minimalist, I've got my suitcase bike:

And my suitcase chair:

And a suitcase for my cellphone and cellphone accessories:

Though unfortunately I don't have a suitcase for my actual clothes, since apparently they don't make those anymore. Also, I was unable to find my preferred road bicycle riding sunglasses (otherwise known as "optics"), and after much digging all I was able to turn up were these positively Fred-tastic Oakley M Frames in a strange orangey-yellow "colorway" from "back in the day:"

(Oakley M Frames and disembodied hand.)

I may just have to squint on this trip, though I imagine I'd also cut a dashing Kenny Powers-esque figure as I sit in the terminal on my suitcase chair gazing at the departure screen through my M Frames. Or maybe I'll just put them on eBay, where bicycles and bicycle parts surf an endless sea of disembodied hands, like concertgoers at Lollapalooza:

In the meantime, I apologize for neglecting my blogular duties, but I will point out that I did blogulate yesterday, which was technically a holiday, so that's something anyway. Also, if I have anything urgent to relate during my absence I will do so by means of my Tweeter. As always, thank you very much for reading, and I look forward to returning on Thursday, March 3rd.

Until then, I remain yours,



cc: David Byrne
bcc: David Byrne's car

Monday, February 21, 2011

Investment Opportunities: All You Haters Fund My Venture

Here in the United States of America (also known as Canada's gratuitous undercoating), today is Presidents Day. On this day, many Americans are free not to attend work so that we may instead take advantage of big, big savings on designer clothing, flat-screen TVs, new automobiles (make sure you get that undercoating!), and other costly items we might otherwise have had the sense to forego had we simply headed into the office. Most importantly, though, we celebrate the lives, work, and of course hair of Presidents Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, and William Henry Harrison:

The administrations of these three Presidents spanned the years 1829 to 1841, a period which historians universally agree is the "Golden Age of Presidential Hair." From Jackson's powerful pompadour, to Van Buren's inspiring sideburn aurora, to Harrison's pointy forelock that prefigured the coiffure of Glenn Danzig by something like 140 years, this was an exciting time during which Presidents still understood the sense of authority that can only be conveyed by truly "epic" hair. Sadly, this Golden Age ended with the untimely death of President Harrison on his 32nd day in office due to complications from tetanus (Harrison insisted on being shaved by a rusty razor for purposes of "street cred"), and while there have since been some flashes of Presidential barbatorial brilliance (Abraham Lincoln's "chin strap," Grover Cleveland's walrus-like lip curtain) there has also never been a dynasty to rival the one we celebrate today.

Meanwhile, if you've accessed the Internet at any point this weekend, you may know that the big news in cyclesport is that some track racer guy got a gigantic splinter in his leg, and while I have been known to post affronts to good taste such as this I draw the line at medical "grodiness" and am therefore posting a censored version of the photo using images that convey the nature of his injuries without actually depicting them:

If you'd like to see the original, it is here, though even when obscured by a pizza pie and a body modification enthusiast who will never, ever hold a job you can plainly see that he lies supine like Jesus on the cross just before the Romans hoisted him into a vertical position. (And the Jews did "golf clap," according to the Gospel of Mel Gibson.) The real tragedy of this injury is that all the hipsters who pretend to like track racing are already agog at how "badass" it is, and you can expect them to start inserting slivers of wood through their own calves as the new must-have accessory to complement their "shants:"

"Oh, this old thing? Yeah, it's been there for years, never bothered to take it out."

Speaking of must-have accessories, on Friday I mentioned this seatpost clamp that is the latest in a seemingly endless procession of bicycle components and accessories that can also open beer:

Since them, I've been more vexed than perhaps it's reasonable to be by a small piece of aluminum--mostly because you'd think that if someone were to integrate a little bottle top-popping dingle into a seatpost clamp, they might at least orient it in such a way that you don't have to hold the bottle sideways and spill half your beer in order to use it:

I'd maybe possibly perhaps consider accepting an argument that this seatpost clamp is designed to use while the bicycle is lying down, except for the fact that the promotional video contains shot after shot of the opener being used with the bicycle standing up as beer spills everywhere:

This is the beer-opening equivalent of an iPhone banking "app" that costs you $35 every time you log into your account.

By the way, this brilliantly-executed seatpost clamp comes in two versions. The first one is the "Nectar:"

According to the copy, this is for people who like PBR--a brand of beer most commonly consumed out of a can.

The second version is the "Elixir:"

This one's for the "tweaker"--which, as I always understood it, is a person who is addicted to methamphetamine.

At this point you're probably saying, "So what? This is Canada's gratuitous undercarriage coating, the land of the gratuitous undercarriage coating. Sure, it's nearly impossible to screw up a bottle opener, and somehow these people have succeeded, but if some designers want to manufacture a little anodized dingle with a poorly-placed dongle on it then that's their Gid-goven right." Of course, I couldn't agree more--except that's not what's going on here. Actually, the dongle-curators want us to give them $15,000 before they'll make us a poorly-designed bottle opener:
Sadly, they're a good $14,000 short, and I'd offer them a bridge loan myself if my money wasn't all tied up in a brake lever-slash-pizza cutter that uses a pinball instead of a circular blade. Still, I'm confident some sort of "angel investor" will step in--perhaps a mystery benefactor who has a vested interest in lots of people riding around on bicycles with sideways bottle openers on them, like an alcoholic recumbent rider:

As you can see from this recumbent rider's-eye view (or, more accurately, recumbent rider's-beard view), a world filled with horizontal seatpost clamp bottle openers would mean that, for the 'bent rider, refreshment would always be just an arm's length away. This in turn would provide yet another source of recumbent rider smugness:

Of course a recumbent commute like this hinges on having access to an uninterrupted and completely car-free bike lane. I'd like to see him try that commute in New York City during rush hour.

Speaking of spurious projects needing funding, a reader recently alerted me to a film called "First Winter," in which a bunch of Brooklyn hipsters traipse around in the country with Golden Age of Presidential Hair-caliber beards and artisanal blunderbusses to the strains of lugubrious accordion music:

They also stare pensively into the horizon:

Apparently, "First Winter" is sort of a "minimalist hipster survival movie," which I'm guessing will be the next hot new "indie" genre:

The Premise:

In December 2012, a massive collapse of infrastructure leaves a group of Brooklyn yogis snowed-in at a country farmhouse without electricity, cell phone reception, or running water. With nothing to rely on but their wits, a couple of old books, and each other, they must survive the first winter off the grid.

The structural skeleton of First Winter is the procedural aspects of survival: chopping firewood, melting snow for water, hunting for food, etc; but the movie at core is really a spiritual exploration. As the distractions of modern of life are replaced by the routine simplicity of living off the land, the friends gradually evolve out of their neurotic fixations into a more quiet, contemplative state of being (of course, not all of them make it).

Obviously, this film is a metaphor for the hipster's first year in Williamsburg, the Mission District, or Portland after graduating from Bard, Sarah Lawrence, or Wesleyan, and the journey towards independence and self-sufficiency which they all undertake but ultimately never achieve. Also, there's ironic sledding--during which, I assume, somebody dies:

As for the technique being employed by the filmmakers:

The aesthetic approach is rigorously formalist; mirroring the inner journey of the characters, the film gradually evolves from frenetic jumpy handheld close up camera work at the beginning to slower, wider, more composed shots towards as the film progresses.

In other words, as the filmmakers continue to shoot the film they gradually figure out how their equipment is supposed to work.

In any case, I predict "First Winter" will be a huge success. Not only is this a perfect product placement opportunity for companies like Best Made Co. and Base Camp X, but the filmmakers have already exceeded their financial goals. In fact, they've received nearly enough backing to start their own bottle-opening seatpost clamp business:
That's gotta sting the "Swarm" guys.

Lastly, another reader has forwarded me what he claims is the "Greatest Craig's List Post Ever," and while this is debatable there's no doubt it's noteworthy:

old bike - $500 (hyattsville)
Date: 2011-02-17, 1:41PM EST

This is mankind's crowning technological achievement. If you are not someone who can appreciate a 35 pound steel beach cruiser with carbon tubular race wheels on it, don't waste my time. You are not cool enough to even thinking about riding this bike.

Please note that no brakes are provided. All braking power is derived from the user dragging a foot on the ground, or in an emergency, putting an old Silca frame pump into the spokes of the moving front wheel. Nor are the tubulars glued.

If you play bike polo, leave me alone. This bike shits out bike polo players on the daily.

Here is a list of places to ride this bike to: a liquor store, a riot, a hockey game.

A good bike lasts 3-5 years, EVIL NEVA DIES.

Not bad I guess, but it needs more bottle openers.

Friday, February 18, 2011

BSNYC Friday Home Butter-Making Course at The Learning Annex!

It started out a Thursday evening like any other. After concluding some undisclosed business on New York City's Manhattan Island (I won't say I'm not opening a restaurant that serves only locally-grown figs that I will call "FIGment of my Uh-Meh-Gination," but I won't say I am either), I stopped at a downtown haircuttery for a bloodletting and scalp massage. Locking my Scattante to a bike rack inhabited only by a solitary Pista, I entered the establishment, and when I returned to my bike a scant ten minutes later down about a quart or so and feeling delightfully lightheaded I found this:

Yes, my poor Scattante had become the olive loaf in a Crappy Bike Sandwich:

"Drat it!," I exclaimed, for if only the city had let David Byrne install more of his whimsically-shaped bike racks then perhaps this sort of parking crunch might have been averted:

Not only that, but more racks like this would also be a welcome addition for the city's many shoegazers:

(Lonely man staring at shoe.)

By the way, you might not know this, but David Byrne doesn't own a car:

("It's true, I really don't!")

Put that in your shoe and gaze at it.

Anyway, I had quite a conundrum on my hands, for while they hadn't actually locked their bikes to mine they had nevertheless wedged me in there pretty well, and how I would extricate mine was taxing my bloodletting-addled brain:

(Irreverent top tube sticker available here.)

The main problem was that I couldn't simply roll it forward, since the chain would garrotte the seatpost:

Moreover, there wasn't enough slack in the chain to lift it over the saddle, nor was there enough lateral clearance in the sandwich to sort of "wheelie" my bike out so that the saddle would kind of "limbo" under it. (I might have simply removed my saddle and seatpost, but I have of course duly theft-proofed them by means of a bicycle drivetrain because in New York they'll take the saddle right out from under your ass. I guess in retrospect I could have also lowered the saddle, but even then it might not have cleared, and, again, I was woozy from loss of blood.)

Therefore, I decided, the only solution would be to take both offending bicycles and simply lift them up and over the entire bike rack, like flipping back the cover on a spiral notebook:

Just as I was grabbing both the Huffy beach cruiser and the Schwinn mountain bike in order to hurl them onto the poor unsuspecting Pista, an unkempt fellow with a hand-rolled cigarette in his mouth and a canned iced tea in his hand arrived on the scene. Yes, it was the sandwich artist himself, and he said, "Let me help you with that, man:"

As he unlocked the bikes, he said to me matter-of-factly, "The solution would have been to wheelie yours out," as though he had intentionally left this puzzle for me to solve like a teacher scrawling a math problem on the blackboard and then leaving the room. I explained to him that the wheelie would not have worked and that I was about to fling the bikes over the rack, to which he replied, "Yeah, that would have worked too." I further explained that the ideal solution would have been not to sandwich me like this in the first place, though this made him screw up his face in confusion, presumably because in his mind it would have required him to travel back in time, and if he had that power he probably wouldn't be hanging around here at all, he'd be playing Hacky Sack at a Phish concert somewhere. (This entire thought sequence was practically written on his face.) In any event, the conundrum was solved to everyone's mutual satisfaction, and I set off on my way, once again glad that I didn't own a $4,000 commuting bike.

Thusly liberated, I'm pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right rejoice, and if you're wrong you'll see Bicycle Hell.

Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and may your bike sandwiches be open-faced.


("Oy, such shpilkes...")

1) Why is Steven Spirn "emotionally tense and frightened?"

2) According to the reporter, why is this Brooklyn street completely clear?

3) Musician and cycling advocate David Byrne owns a car.

4) NPR recently reported that Portland, OR is:

("Seatpost clamp/bottle opener?!? Can I get an a-meh?")

5) If there's one thing cycling needs, it's more color-coordinated accessories that also open beer.


("A horizontal bottle opener?!? Can I get an a-meh?")

6) The unique "angle of attack" of the Nectar and Elixir seatpost clamp/bottle openers encourage rider sobriety by making you spill half your beer as you open it.

7) Fill in the blank for the above Craigslist "Missed Connection:"

***Special Fred Taxonomy-Themed Bonus Question***
(What's the point of a credit card you can't buy porn with?)

What do you call a Fred wearing this jersey?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Aristocrats: Stay Classy

In these crazy, wild, topsy-turvy times of wars, conflicts, battles, and excessive synonym usage, it can be important to have something that gives you a sense of security. This can be something as complex as a belief system, as simple as a talisman. This is why I worship a Lobster deity whose glowing Pincers of Justice light my way like Glo Stix in the horrific rave that is life in the modern world. I also cling to talismans, which is why I recently commissioned a large diamond-encrusted medallion of the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork:

Just as it is reassuring to look to the heavens and find a familiar constellation, or to open the refrigerator and find that same jar of relish that was there when you moved in, it is incredibly grounding to know that this flavor saver-sporting über-dork will always be among us. It's also tremendously soothing to know that he has a brother who rides mountain bikes, as you can see in this "vintage" ad from "Spy" magazine that was forwarded to me by a reader:

Now that I think about it though, it's equally possible that his brother is also a time traveler but that he's since been lost in time, trapped in some pan-dimensional netherworld, in which case this is all very troubling. Either way, maybe I will have him incorporated into the medallion--it should be no trouble for the artisanal jewelry curator I frequent down at Fulton Mall, since he did an impeccable job with my "Heroes of the Spring Classics" gold fronts.

Speaking of cycling legends, the Lennard Zinn Bicycle Technical Advice-Dispensing Robot has published an interesting article about Lance Armstrong's various contributions to the equipment aspect of the sport (of cycling, naturally--his tennis racket designs sucked):

However, even Watson the "Jeopardy"-playing computer made the occasional mistake, and likewise the Zinn-bot did make one glaring error:

The fact that Armstrong’s equipment was displayed on a huge world stage for a month in July, seven years in a row, gave it a more lasting effect. Also, the Olympic equipment programs tended to be aimed primarily at track racing (especially once the team time trial was eliminated from the Games) and the masses do not buy track bikes.

If the masses don't buy track bikes then I don't know how to account for all those Bianchi Pista sales, or all the Nü-Freds who are constantly shoaling me and salmoning at me at every turn. Then again, maybe I'm living in "The Truman Show," and it's just the same Nü-Fred over and over, and all he's doing is changing his designer bag. This notion is incredibly frightening to me, and I only wish my retro-Fred medallion were finished so I could rub it desperately and sob as I pray to the Lobster for mercy.

In fact, sometimes I find myself wishing that I actually had the power to time travel, perhaps by means of some kind of flux capacitor-assisted "bake feets." And if I could travel through time, I know exactly where I'd go: mid-1960s England, more commonly known as the Golden Age of the Aristocrat Bike:


This video was forwarded to me by Paul in London, and not only is it top-shelf vintage folding bike porn, but the pastoral vision of cycling it affords us makes a tweed ride in Portland look about as genteel as a cockfight in Tijuana. I mean, what could be more romantic than taking a folding bicycle on a boat date?

We know they're real aristocrats too, because the young gentleman averts his eyes as his date leaves the boat instead of taking advantage of the nascent short skirt trend and stealing a glimpse of her "lady place:"

Then again, she does ride away from him, so maybe he did do something impertinent, like ask her opinion of his dickie.

Similarly well-behaved are these young newlyweds:

If each manages not to break a hip while mounting the Aristocrat Bike, then they should be in for quite a rollicking honeymoon. Maybe they'll even let the tea steep for just a few more minutes so that the thrillingly illicit caffeine jolt will add some excitement to their evening of abstinence.

As Paul also points out, the video even features a Le Mans start:

See, back in those days, while the good aristocrats played polo, the bad ones engaged in outlaw bicycle-themed lawn games known as "crumpetcats."

Next, the narrator makes a very bold prediction:

"In 10 years' time, the cycling experts say, today's cross-bar models will be museum pieces like those old pennyfarthings before them."

Of course, as we all know now, he turned out to be right about the demise of the "cross-bar"--though not quite in the way that he imagined. While the folding bike is certainly widely used today, it's far from the norm, and indeed most cyclists these days prefer something like this, as forwarded to me by a reader:

Top tubes are for retrogrouches--everybody knows that crabon diving boards are far more practical.

Nevertheless, as the narrator also points out, back then the Aristocrat Bike was also poised to become "the big businessman's time-saving friend," and here's one removing an Aristocrat Bike from the trunk (or, as I believe they say in Britain, the "butt") of his car:

You'd think an aristocrat would have some sort of apron-clad Jeeves to extricate his Aristocrat Bike from the butt of his car (ideally he's wear latex gloves while doing so) and unfurl it for him. Then again, I suppose as a businessman he is engaged in business, and thus "works," which is not the sort of distasteful behavior in which an aristocrat would engage. I guess he must be one of those tacky nouveau riche types. Still, I guess handling your own bike is more aristocratic than, say, this:

Anyway, if the Aristocrat Bike isn't truly aristocratic yet, it soon will be, for as the narrator explains, it's quite the social climber:

"The makers believe they are unfolding the story of the push bike that is going up in the social world."

I'm not so sure about that. Really, it's almost impossible to teach these nouveau riche types anything about taste. Just look at his garish yacht!

He's even got some scantily-clad 1960s "ho" waiting for him on deck:

They are so totally going to have a mid-1960s nouveau riche yacht party. In fact, what they're doing in the Aristocrat Bike video is exactly the equivalent of this:

Though something tells me those guys didn't bother hire a bicycle valet:

Speaking of how it was "back in the day," a few posts back a commenter mentioned the following article about some guy with an old-timey car:

In it, the car's owner proves that he's obviously been spending a lot of time reading people rationalize brakelessness on fixed-gear websites and forums:

Because the Model A’s brakes need a longer distance to stop the car, the trick, he said, is to avoid tailgating. “The car is actually safer because it forces you to be more aware of conditions, of what’s going on around you,” Mr. Klinger said.

Not only is it a Zen thing, but it's also a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang thing. I'd like to see him pull an Aristocrat Bike out of that Model A's butt--now that would be a trick. I'd also like to travel forward in time and see if in 40 years the YikeBike video seems as quaint and charming as the Aristocrat Bike newsreel did:

My best guess is that it won't. Like styrofoam, true idiocy does not degrade over time.

Lastly, yet another reader informs me that disembodied hands are not just for presenting bikes, and that they're also used to great effect in dog shows:

In particular, the hand on the left is doing a wonderful job of moving the tail out of the way and providing a clean line of sight--in fact, as I understand it, this dog's testicles actually won Best in Show.